Amazing Adventures #37: "Arena Kill!"

Amazing Adventures #37
"Arena Kill!"
July, 1976

Don McGregor: Writer
Craig Russell: Artist
Jack Abel: Inker
Irv Watanabe: Letterer
Petra Goldberg: Colorist
Marv Wolfman: Editor

Killraven and the Freemen have reached the Suwannee River, Okefenokee
National Wildlife Refuge on New Year's Eve, 2020, and find their
collective reputations have already proceeded them.  They have been
mistaken for common vagabonds, with Brother Axe about to test the sum and
substance of the legend with his chosen weapon.

Killraven strikes back by kicking his would-be assailant to the swampy
floor.  They have spent three days passing through a marsh filled with
flesh-eating insects, and the red-haired leader of the Freemen is not
about to fall onto someone's axe.  Brother Axe is not about to have his
people and land taken over by vagabonds, but then, he's not in a position
to do much of anything at the moment.  After insisting that they put the
legends aside, Killraven asserts his identity, and insists that they
speak matters in more pleasant surroundings.  Blood, either theirs or
his, need not be spilled today.

Brother Axe need not worry, for Huey and Louie are ready to deal with the
wandering vagabond, and his friends.  As they prepare to charge
Killraven, Old Skull decides to stop watching, and bring their two heads
together.  As the duo are knocked senseless, more of their number have
come forward, but they are stopped by the sight of M'Shulla's crossbow
aimed at their hearts.  Carmilla Frost takes out one more straggler, and
sends him crashing into the bushes with a single punch.

Inside the refuge, Killraven is grateful for his friends' contributions
to the discussion.  Brother Axe admits his error, and in their isolation,
they have met their share of enemies in the form of strangers.  The
wildlife preserve had been bypassed by the Martians in 2001.  Brother Axe
believes that this was due to the impenetrability of the Okefenokee
Swamp.  A feast has been prepared for Killraven and his Freemen, with Old
Skull helping in the kitchen.  Brother Axe also wishes to thank the
red-haired leader for not having him lose face, or his head, for that
matter.  The Freeman understands the leader's duty to the protection of
his people, and sees nothing further to fight about.  Killraven and his
band will be leaving soon, but Brother Axe might be able to help them
before they leave.  They had been heading for a place known as
Yellowstone, but were unable to find it.  Both this and their recent
departure from the Martian Death-Birth stronghold has driven them from
their goal.  The red-haired leader of the Freemen confides to Brother Axe
that it's very rare for Carmilla Frost to own up to a mistake.

Unfortunately for them, Brother Axe does not know the location of
Yellowstone.  Carmilla does know how to keep track of the time, but this
is something that Killraven would rather not know about.  Old Skull
enters with their meal.  CRUNCH!  CRACK!  ZLUP!  Soon, all present bear
witness to the Freeman's delight at the quality of his food.  As they
dine, Brother Axe begins to speak about a legend concerning a mysterious
woman with butterfly wings.  As Old Skull greets a hungry raccoon,
Killraven learns about the legends regarding himself and the Freemen.  He
knows that even during a meal such as this, the Martians are waiting to
conquer those remaining on the planet... and to deprive them of their
sense of purpose.  As both he and Brother Axe sample the roast, the
little bandit receives a treat from Old Skull.

After learning from Carmilla Frost that a new year is almost upon them,
Killraven begins to speak about the arena, a place where one enters, but
may not leave alive.  It was in such an arena at Madison Square Garden
that both he and Old Skull fought for their lives against Warr.  It is at
this point that his friend decides to interrupt the story.  Knowing that
a tale must have a beginning, Old Skull tells them about a time before
the Martians came... a time when people were trained not in arenas, but
in schools.  The schools had the students seated in cubicles, and being
taught how to think.  Killraven is about to mention the part about
Warr... but Old Skull is focused on events from 1997.  The teachers were
the ones who changed the picture set tapes, while the children were the
ones who called Old Skull "retarded."  He has never forgotten that word,
and sees that the little bandit wants some wine to drink, the Freeman
continues to tell Mr. Killraven's story.

The children who mocked Old Skull were mean, and he wasn't able to use a
weapon on anyone.  He had to learn to live with their laughter, and only
would fight if either there was no choice or if his loved ones were
threatened.  Both school and home were his arenas.  The ranch was his
home, where cattle were raised to become steaks for people to eat.  Old
Skull's father was a cowboy who knew that his time was coming to an end.
He remembers the day when his father was going to put Randy the calf out
to pasture.  With not enough grass to eat, they were running out of land.
The father reminded his son that they ate meat, and were fighting for
their way of life.  The cowboy had wondered if the boy had sided with
those who were trying to run them out of business.  With the science of
hydroponics, chemicals were used to create food, and the grazing land was
becoming scarce.  The calf would have to go, and Old Skull knew that
Randy had been the only one not to laugh at him.  He was unable to fight
at school or at home.  Both were arenas in which he had lost, and wept
with each breath.

The calf was gone, Old Skull was still there, but the ranch was dying.
It had been about three or four years later when the last of the steers
were herded towards the trade-line conveyors.  It was now the year 2001.
He remembers how his father rode the rawhider, a flying machine which
could never throw him.  CLIPITY-CLOP-CLIPITY-CLOP!  After a cattle drive,
a cowboy would take care of the horse he rode.  His men know that this
was the last drive, which is why it seemed so real to them, and why they
haven't had much to eat as they once did.  The old days are over, and the
flying rawhider could never take the place of a real horse.  All that
remains is a machine, with the wires torn out.

Old Skull had walked into the sunset with his father, the last one they'd
see together.  Upon hearing this, Killraven starts to tell them about the
Madison Square Garden Arena match of 2010.  They had stood together in
the shadows, waiting for Warr to arrive, but -- Old Skull interrupts his
friend once again.  The leader of the Freemen also sees that the raccoon
wants to drink some of his wine, then changes its mind.  Old Skull was
fourteen years old in 2001.  They followed the cattle on a solar-powered
transparent tramway.  WHACKETA WHACK!  The father pats his son on the
back, on their final ride, and comments that the boy hadn't done much
with the ranch.  He knows that when the numbskull wants to taste some
prime beef, and can't get it, maybe he'll understand what they are about
to lose.  Then again, maybe he won't.  The cowboy looks at his son, and
suspects that they may have much in common than he can reckon.  The
father wonders if they will both come out of the tunnel, and see one
another in the light of day.

As the solar-powered tram makes its way out of the tunnel, they are both
now in the light, but the cowboy isn't so sure that they're seeing one
another.  The boy's gaze is directed elsewhere, towards the advancing
Martian tripods, and the crimson rays which struck down their trans
conveyor on Invasion Day.  Those who were still alive were taken as
prisoners, but the dead were of no use to the Martians, who left them
where they lay.  Killraven thinks about himself and his brother, if they
had shared words with one another, then he doesn't remember it.  He hopes
to change this when they arrive at Yellowstone Park.  The time has come
for the arena, with Warr and his legion of spiders.  The creatures were
only matched by the Martian's ultimate gladiator called Warr.  A scar had
been torn from his right temple, along the right eye, through the nose,
and down the length of the left cheek.  His Martian masters had given him
a sword with nuclear flame, and webbing which could burn on contact.
There was no escape from the arena, for if a gladiator left its
boundaries, the lasers would destroy them.  Killraven and Old Skull could
only wait for their death to come within range, and it soon would.

Old Skull points out to Mr. Killraven that he hasn't mentioned how they
had met.  As Brother Axe sees that his glass of wine is strangely empty,
the Freeman speaks about 2014, and the time before he entered the arena.
Old Skull was eating his gruel when three other gladiators came towards
him.  One of them kicked the bowl, leaving the gruel onto his pants.  He
then takes the bowl and places it on "Numbskull's" head.

HA-HA-H URK!  The gladiator's laughter is short lived when he finds his
throat seized from behind.  UGHINUH!  The newcomer is eager to have the
bully try his tricks on him... and have one less gladiator to deal with
in the arena.  The other two try to run to Artemus's aid, but they are as
children, and are easily beaten back by the red-haired warrior.  Not
relinquishing his grip on Artemus, he manages to extract a sincere
apology from the bully, who will clean up the mess he made.  He will keep
his tongue in his head or else.  Since they are about to enter the arena
together, Killraven introduces himself to his new friend.  Since he
realizes that the bald man has knowledge which the others will never
understand, the red-haired warrior dubs him... "Old Skull."  The taller
man rises and after a firm handshake, Killraven sees that he's is pleased
with his new name.

The time has come for Mr. Killraven to tell them about Warr and the
creepy spiders.  The leader of the Freemen is not sure that he can
remember what happened. Old Skull offers to tell the story, but the
memories have returned to his friend.  The unseen Martians in the
audience never made a sound... and the coming of Warr.  Armed with his
flaming sword and spiked shield, Warr meets with Killraven, the newbie on
the gladiator circuit.  If one of them is to die in the arena, it will
not be Warr.  His prowess in earlier matches had attracted the attention
of the Martians, but his newfound friend now finds himself in trouble.
Killraven is unimpressed by Warr's concern for their well being, and
turns his attention towards the giant spiders.

SLICE!  One spider is no match for Killraven's sword.  CRAACK!  Old Skull
is not on the menu.  ZZSS  COOOSH!  The spider retreats from the arena,
and right into the path of the waiting lasers.  Their back-to-back tactic
has proven effective, but Old Skull admits to Mr. Killraven that the
spiders do scare him.  He notices that his friend likes his new name, and
is okay with being called simply "Killraven."  Seeing how well they
fight, Warr is eager to perform, and prove his own worth to the Martians.
His webbing is capable of burning upon contact with human flesh... but
Killraven needs nothing to remind him of this fact.  The battle is to be
between himself and Warr.

The red-haired warrior is able to cut through the webbing before it can
burn his leg, then uses his sword to counter the approaching Warr.  His
sword clangs against the spiked shield, and he ducks beneath the flaming
arc from the nuclear-powered sword.  Twin lasers fire just out of range,
as Killraven stands his ground, and Warr is determined to drive his
opponent out of the arena.  Beads of sweat fall onto his face, as his
feet are in danger of passing over the edge.

It is Old Skull who flings Warr away from Mr. Killraven.  As they watch
the flaming sword come into contact with the giant spider, the red-haired
warrior asks why his newfound friend has interfered in the personal
fight.  Old Skull has wanted to help Mr. Killraven, but Warr knows that
only their deaths will satisfy the Martians.  They will not become
performers for aliens, and take their leave of the frustrated audience.
WHUCK!  Old Skull congratulates Mr. Killraven on his fine storytelling
with a slap on the back.  Brother Axe offers up a toast to Killraven and
his Freemen, but they are unable to drink, and see that all of their
glasses of wine are empty.  URP!  The little bandit has drunk more than
his fair share, and is now making his exit.

On the cover of Amazing Adventures #37, the cover blurbs promise the
reader, "At Last!  The Startling Origin Of The Man Called Old Skull!"
"You Dare Not Miss.. Arena Kill!"  Caught in the clutches of a giant
spider, Killraven dare not miss with his trusty sword, and the fangs of
the blood-colored arachnid.

On the inside front cover, there is an advertisement from Spalding about
its Top Flite Basketball and the 1976 Olympics.

Huey and Louie learn that their skulls together are no match for Old

M'Shulla makes certain that the other Junior Woodchucks see his point
when it comes to retreat.

On another page, we can see "who's smiling now" from a LaSalle graduate.

The Marsh are rather mellow folk, and know how to light up a fire for a

Before there was "Smokey And The Bandit," there was Old Skull and the

On another page, the Spider-Man Ring, the result of space-age technology,
and moody NASA technicians is advertised.  No wonder the wall-crawler's
emotions ran the gamut of the entire spectrum.

When it came to school, Old Skull was in a class by himself.

Although he and his family ate meat, Old Skull knew that the food-to-be
had a life of its own, just as he had.

On another page, we got Marvel T-Shirts for the discriminating reader.

Even the rawhider machine didn't show Old Skull's father much respect.

I wonder what would have happened if Old Skull had died, but his father
had lived.  How would things have been different if it was the cowboy who
would be met by Killraven in the arena?

Warr has a yellow tunic, with red pants, and yellow flame designs on

From the Mighty Marvel Checklist:

Captain Marvel #45: Cap must fight to free himself from the mind of Rick
Jones in one of the most senses-shattering sagas ever!

Howard The Duck #4: Cleveland's web-footed good-deed-doer might enter
"The Sleep Of The Just" thanks to the Winkey-Man- and he may never wake
up again!

Marvel Team-Up #47: The ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing and the wall-crawlin'
Spider-Man together again in the continuation of the Basilisk brouhaha as
both Ben Grimm and Peter Parker say "I Have To Fight The Basilisk!

Iron Man #88: Our golden gladiator enters into a death-duel with the
Blood Brothers!  Happy and Pepper quit Stark Industries!  All this and

Amazing Adventures #37: Don't miss the origin of Old Skull as he and
Killraven battle to the death in Madison Square Garden in the tale titled
"Arena Kill!"

Fantastic Four #172: It's a "Journey to Counter Earth" as the world's
greatest super-team goes with Gorr, the Golden Gorilla to our planetary
twin to save it from Galactus!  PLUS: A breath-taking battle between the
Thing and the Destroyer!"

Captain America Annual #3.  Captain America versus the vampire creature
out of the vacuum of space when he meets "The Thing From The Black Hole
Star" in this novel-length extravaganza.

Master of Kung-Fu Annual #1: Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu, and Iron Fist,
the Living Weapon, team-up to invade "The Fortress of S'Ahra-Sham!"

Werewolf By Night #39: Jack Russell's alter-ego teams up with Brother
Voodoo, the man who dies yet lives again, when Wolfie's weirdest foe
returns to plague his furry life once more!

From the above checklist, one gets the feeling that Killraven and Old
Skull were going to be the ones fighting each other to the death.

In the letters page, we learn that sales went down on the first issue
that bore the name KILLRAVEN, not WAR OF THE WORLDS.

We also learn that the cross-country trek being made by Killraven and the
Freemen was far from aimless.

On another page, Victor Von Doom urges readers to subscribe to FOOM and
become a friend of Ol' Marvel.

On another page, kids could sell GRIT to folks for 25 cents and win neat
prizes, such as bicycles, watches, telescopes, sleeping bags, bracelets,
basketballs, scuba masks, baseballs, baseball mitts, baseball bats, movie
cameras, football helmets, footballs, and transistor radios.

Me, I'd just keep on reading the Still Only 25 cents issue of Amazing
Adventures, with Killraven and his band of Freemen.  In other words,
"Kiss my GRIT!"

Old Skull is bowled over with gratitude over the arrival of Mr.

Artemus is numb with fear at the possibility of someone who can fight

After meeting with Old Skull, Killraven is all shook up.

In the flashback story, the red-haired warrior is wearing his original
costume, while on the cover, he is wearing his regular fighting togs.

While beef is what's for dinner, Old Skull is certainly not on the menu
for any creepy-crawling spiders.

Like his father, Old Skull is master of the back-slap.

Although Killraven and the Freemen are given a toast, it is the bandit
who gets away with the wine.

This Review Is Dedicated To Don McGregor and P. Craig Russell

Steve Chung
"Arena Review!"